ISLAMABAD: Pakistan confirmed on Thursday that it had agreed on a work plan with the United States to help open a “new chapter of stability, prosperity and development in Afghanistan.”
The work plan, Foreign Office spokesperson Tehmina Janjua said, was agreed between the two countries during the recent visit of US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton to Pakistan.
“It was clear during the discussions that there is broad convergence of views between the two countries at the strategic level. Both countries agreed to have a work plan in order to translate these convergences into desired results,” Janjua said at a news conference, when asked to give an overall assessment of Secretary Clinton’s visit. However, she would not provide further details.
The development, if proven to be true, would be Pakistan’s first official acknowledgement of the two countries reaching a broad understanding on the endgame in Afghanistan.
“I think we’ve done a lot to clear the air,” Clinton told reporters on Friday in Islamabad. Quoting Kayani, she added that the two sides are ‘90% to 95% on the same page’. Clinton, who was accompanied by Joint Chiefs of Staff General Martin Dempsey and Director Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) David Patreaus, was successful in convincing Pakistan to deliver the Haqqani network to the negotiating table and further constraint the group’s leverage in Afghanistan.
A senior US diplomat told The Express Tribune that Pakistan had made a commitment to tackle the deadliest Afghan Taliban insurgent group.
Conversely, the US appears to have softened its earlier stance, seeking a full-scale military offensive in North Waziristan. A senior military official revealed that the shift in US policy was part of an understanding between the two countries in which Pakistan would persuade the Haqqani network to come to the negotiating table with the US.
The official added that after years of deeming the group irreconcilable, the Obama administration had now been convinced that the Haqqanis could be brought to the negotiating table.
“Complex situations require clarity of purpose, objectivity and firm determination; that is what both countries are willing to look at,” Janjua said referring to the tentative agreements made by the US delegation’s visit to Islamabad.
Zardari to attend
The foreign office spokesperson added that President Asif Ali Zardari will hold talks with Afghan and Turkish leaders on the eve of a long-awaited conference on Afghanistan in Istanbul.
Afghan President Hamid Karzai and Turkish President Abullah Gul will also attend the meeting on Saturday, spokeswoman Tehmina Janjua told reporters.
The agenda will include peace, stability and reconciliation in Afghanistan and economic cooperation for Afghanistan, she said.
Turkey hosts a regional conference on Afghanistan on November 2 in Istanbul, which Foreign Minister Hina Rabbani Khar will attend.
The Istanbul conference is intended to chart Afghanistan’s future with the US-led NATO mission already locked into troop drawdowns that are scheduled to bring all foreign combat troops home by 2014.
(Additional input from AFP)
Published in The Express Tribune, October 28th, 2011.